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Stories from the food crisis in Kenya

Stories from the food crisis in Kenya


Usually when the schools in Kenya are closed, the children spend their time playing. Running around with their siblings and friends, before being called home for a meal and then racing off again for more adventures. But this holiday, things are different. 

On 10 February, a national drought emergency was declared in Kenya, with 23 of 47 counties in Kenya affected. The food crisis has hit communities across the Horn of Africa - from Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan to Somalia - and now over 20 million people are affected by the severe drought and hunger crisis. 

Our staff who are on the ground and providing aid to those who need it most, spoke to families in Kilifi County, Kenya, to find out how the drought is affecting them and their children. Most families can only afford one meal a day since the drought took hold of Kenya. Instead of playing, children are spending their time sitting under trees. They are depressed and weak due to lack of food. With the next rainy season not due until April, families are worried about their future.

Peter says his children will go hungry for more than a day because of the drought in Kenya

We don’t have enough to spare

“I largely depend on farming to feed my children. I farm maize, cowpeas and cassava annually. This year, all crops failed due to lack of rain. I am now forced to depend on manual labour to feed my family which is not guaranteed.”  
“My children are suffering. Sometimes we lack food for more than a day. If they eat at night but have no breakfast, then they don’t want to go to school. They missed school for three days every week last term. I cannot force them to go school when they are hungry and weak.” - Peter, a father of six children, Kenya 

“I have missed school more than once a week since second term due to lack of food. Sometimes I am too weak to go. Before this, I would carry lunch to school but now this is not possible at all. We don’t have enough to spare.” - Juma, Peter's son, 13, Kenya 

Mzees grandchildren are missing out on school due to hunger caused by the food crisis

We cannot afford even one meal a day

“Since February, life has been very difficult. I have lived here for many years but this is the first time I have experienced hunger due to failed crops. Four of my grandchildren who are in school were unable to attend the third term due to lack of food. We cannot afford even one meal a day. It is very difficult.” 

“This bare land you see now once had plenty to harvest. Our need right now is money, without money we are not able to buy food. Currently, I am planning to sell a portion of my land so that I can sustain my family. Even though it will earn very little money, it is better than being hungry.” – Mzee, a grandfather, Kenya

“I feel sad that I cannot go to school due to this drought. I used to wake up, fetch water then go to school. But not anymore.” – Samson, Mzee’s grandson, Kenya 

Kache is struggling to find clean water due to the food crisis in Kenya

The fish are dying and the water is dirty

“This watering hole once had plenty of clean water for drinking and household use. It also had fish that we would catch for eating. Now the fish are dying and the water is dirty but we are left with no option but to use it.” - Kache, Kilifi, Kenya 
“To get clean water, we have to walk to a watering hole upstream which takes a long time. Sometimes we spent the night there and have to light bonfires in order to keep warm.” - Habiba, Kilifi, Kenya

Children are too hungry to go to school in Kenya due to the food crisis

They too young to understand what is going on

“64 out of 457 children have dropped out of school with the majority of them being in kindergarten and year one. This is largely due to lack of food at home and lack of a feeding programme at school. Since July, the number of children who attend class has dropped. When they come to school, they fall asleep by 11am.” 

“One time I asked a few of them what the problem was, they were honest enough to tell me that they are hungry. These are children between three and six years, they too young to understand what is going on. It is a sad situation.” – John, head teacher, Kenya

Daniel has never experience a drought in Kenya like this

This was the best place to buy land and live

“I moved my family to this community many years ago. Back then, this was the best place to buy land and live. We had pineapples, cassava and coconut growing freely on my land.” 

“We have had several dry seasons before but nothing like this. This has exceeded everything we have known. Even if I were to move my family again because of this drought, I don’t know where we would go. Everywhere is dry now. Most families around here survive on one meal a day and the children have missed school for several days since second term.” - Daniel, disabled father of 16 children, Kenya 

We’re working in Kenya to provide urgent food supplies and life-saving support to children and families affected by the East Africa drought. We’re also providing families with jerry cans and water purification tablets.To identify malnourished children, we’re conducting screening for children under five and referring cases of malnutrition for appropriate treatment. But there is still so much more to be done. Not just in Kenya, but across the Horn of Africa, children and families are suffering. 

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